There are many myths revolving around emotional support animals. People still get confused between emotional support animals and service dogs. There are also many misconceptions about ESA pet certification – why is it important and how a person can get it. It is important to get familiar with what emotional support animals are for, what is their purpose, and how to get one. Emotional support animals can help people suffering from psychological or mental health problems. And while any animal can be an emotional support animal, most psychologists consider only dogs, cats, rabbits, and other common pets as ESAs.
In this article, we will separate facts from fiction and debunk the various myths and misconceptions surrounding emotional support animals. Having said that, let’s get into it.
Myth #1: There is no difference between emotional support animals and service animals
Let’s start the list with the most common one of them all. I have heard many people say that emotional support animals and service animals are the same things. No, they are not! They may have a similar purpose, which is to help and assist their owner in some way. But, they are used in different ways. And it’s important for you to learn about the difference between service animals and emotional support animals. Also, they have different rights according to the law.
Service animals are highly trained for months to perform specific duties to assist their owners’ disabilities so that the owners can live a better life. These animals have to undergo certain tests and then receive certifications. This is important to make sure that they have completed their training and are ready to be paired with a disabled person.
While on the other hand, emotional support animals do not require any special training. They help a person suffering from a mental disability deal with the symptoms related to that disability. These animals provide general emotional and psychological aid to their owners.
Myth #2: Emotional support animals can go anywhere
This is the second most common myth surrounding emotional support animals. This is somewhat related to the first myth. While service animals are permitted to go everywhere with their owners, this is not true for ESAs. Service animals are accredited by the American Disability Act (ADA), hence they go to both private and public places. These animals are highly trained and certified to behave appropriately.
And on the other hand, emotional support animals are only allowed to live with their owners even in pet-free accommodation and travel with them in commercial airlines. ESAs are only protected by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACCA). You can not take your emotional support animal to other pet-free places. Also, you can take your ESA to private places such as shops, restaurants, hotels only if the owner of that property permits you.
Myth #3: Emotional support animals wear a vest
There are various myths surrounding ESAs wearing vests. And this one is probably the most common. Many ESA owners think that it is compulsory for their pet to wear a vest when out in public to prove that the pet is an emotional support animal. But, this is not the case. It is your wish whether you want your ESA pet to wear a vest or not. It is not at all compulsory for ESAs to wear a vest. All you need to prove that your pet is an emotional support animal is an ESA pet certification by a therapist or mental health professional.
Myth #4: You just need a vest to get an ESA
As I mentioned in the previous point, there is more than one myth when it comes to ESAs and vests. This is the second myth associated with it. It is your choice whether you want your ESA pet to wear a vest or not, but your pet does require an emotional support animal letter signed by a licensed mental health professional. The professional evaluate your condition and then decides whether an ESA can help in improving your condition or not. If approved, you will get the ESA letter. So, vests or badges are not enough to determine whether a pet is an ESA or not.
Myth #5: Anyone can get an emotional support animal
This is one of the worst myths surrounding ESAs, as this also affects the reputation of ESAs in public. Many people think that anyone can get an emotional support animal but that’s not the case.
Emotional support animals are used to provide emotional support to people. But if you need an ESA, you need an ESA letter from licensed mental health. This letter tells that you need an emotional support animal because of your mental or psychological disability. This means you can get an emotional support animal only if you suffer from a recognized mental health condition.
Myth #6: Landlords can reject an ESA if they feel that a tenant is not disabled
A person needs an ESA letter signed by a licensed mental health professional to get an ESA. This letter proves that the person has a mental or psychological disorder, and needs an emotional support animal for that. And, ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which means the ESA can live with its owner even in a pet-free accommodation.
So, the landlords do not have any right to reject an ESA if the tenant has a legit ESA letter. The disability of a person can only be determined by a professional, hence the landlord has to accept the ESA if the tenant has an ESA letter signed by a licensed mental health professional. And if a landlord rejects your ESA even after you have shown him the ESA letter, you can file a claim with HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development). This is considered discrimination as well as a breach of federal law.
Myth #7: It is not legal to apply for an ESA letter online
This is absolutely wrong. In fact, the opposite of this statement is true. You can apply for and qualify for an ESA letter online. Telehealth is encouraging people for online applications for ESA letters. Although, rules may vary from state to state when obtaining an ESA letter, so it’s better for you to get familiar with the rules in the state you are living. Hence, it is legal to apply for an ESA letter using an accredited online organization that follows the telehealth service laws of your state.